Kenneth Roberts Books: John Pierce’s Journal, Moreau de St. Mery, and Nordwest Passage

Today my family and I spent some time in Frankfort, Kentucky, to visit the state capitol and visit the quaint downtown area. The day would have been a win with just the visit to the capitol; however, our visit to Frankfort’s downtown made the day even better. Why, you may ask? Because of the treasure in Poor Richard’s Books – one of those now-rare local book stores that lack the corporate feel of the box stores and the virtually impersonal feel of e-books. The walls were lined with floor-to-ceiling bookcases and the middle of the store was filled with more bookcases. Then, you go upstairs to find another floor full of older, dustier books. Books lined the walls and filled bookcases in the aisles, while overflow books…well…flowed onto the floor. It was magical. A book store where you could literally spend an afternoon looking through the books for anything and everything.

Our trip to Poor Richard’s led me to two Kenneth Roberts’ books. I stress “two” because it’s rare to find more than one book of Roberts’ in a book store outside of New England.  The first book I found was a first edition of Moreau de St. Mery’s Amerian Journey. Roberts consulted the journals of de St. Mery when he was writing Lydia Bailey. The journals gave him insight into “the French refugees who fled from San Domingo and France at the end of the eighteenth century” (front flap). De St. Mery’s approach to writing is similar to that of Alexis de Tocqueville, but is a better read than Tocqueville.

Another find from Poor Richard’s was a copy of Kenneth Roberts’ Nordwest Passage. No, I did not misspell anything there. It’s a German copy of Roberts’ book Northwest Passage. I’ve seen online before a copy or two of Roberts’ books in another language, but have never come across a copy here in the states. Most books translated into another language are not worth much, but for a Kenneth Roberts fan, this is a neat collector’s item. Note in the pictures below the artwork on the dust jacket (I’ll need to get a protective cover for the dj); it reminds me of Eric Carle’s artwork in his children’s books. As for the book, it’s a good thing I already know what the book is about so I don’t have to brush up on my German. ;)




I also found several copies of Lydia Bailey, but I already have so many copies of this book that I passed on buying one (though I did consider it!). I highly recommend you visit Poor Richard’s Books if you ever find yourself in Frankfort, Kentucky. You can also visit them on the web ( or on Facebook.

Finally, one of my bigger finds was earlier this summer when I found a copy of John Pierce: Journal by the Advanced Surveyor With Col. Arnold on the March to Quebec. Roberts did not publish this book (more like a booklet) by itself; rather,  if my memory serves me correctly, this booklet was included with a copy of either March to Quebec or Arundel (fellow K.R. fans, help out my memory on this one). I’ve been looking for a copy of John Pierce for quite some time and stubmled across my copy while on The book ran for about $50 or so, but I found my copy for $15. Not too shabby.

And, to conclude an already lengthy post, I found another first edition copy of I Wanted to Write at a great book store in New Orleans called Crescent City Books (

It can be frustrating being a Roberts fan on a shoestring budget. Kenneth Roberts collectibles are to be had, but you have to be willing to pay a pretty penny. However, there are those wonderful days when you stumble across a first edition that fits your budget. And this summer, I’ve had several of those days!

Kenneth Roberts Books: Nostalgia and Rabble in Arms


IMG_3261 Kenneth L. Roberts, “Rabble in Arms,” International Collectors Library (Garden City, NY: 1947)

I’ve picked up Rabble in Arms this week for my summer reading. In doing so, I’ve become a little nostalgic about when I collected my first Kenneth Roberts book. I read my first Roberts book in my junior year of high school. I had a reading report to do and no book to read. So, one day I was wandering around our school library and I just randomly picked up a copy of Rabble in Arms. After glancing through it, I thought I’d give it a shot. Little did I know that upon completing Rabble in Arms, I would have read one of the very few books that stand out from among the rest.

Several years passed by without my reading any other Kenneth Roberts books, but I recall considering Rabble in Arms my favorite book. Finally, in either my senior year of college or just after graduating college, I stopped at a rather large used book store in Baton Rouge (that’s unfortunately not there anymore!). And for some reason, I became intent on finding a copy of Rabble in Arms. I didn’t remember the full title, and I didn’t remember Roberts’ name; however, I was bound and determined to find the book. I was nearing the end of my search, literally in the last section of the store when I stumbled upon the copy of Rabble in Arms you see above. I was ecstatic and went home to begin reading a lost but found treasure. Little did I know what purchasing this book would begin…

My first copy of Rabble in Arms is no first edition, nor is it a special edition or a signed copy.. I had to hot glue the spine to keep it from flapping open, and scuff marks are evident on the back board. Yet, it sits on the shelf containing my best copies of Roberts’ works (except when I’m reading it!). Any time I’ve moved, I’ve made sure this book was packed carefully and placed prominently on my bookshelf. This copy may never hold any monetary value, but it will always be of greatest value among all of my books.

In Honor of Memorial Day

Today we remember those who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom of our country; further, we honor all who have served in our armed forces. In light of Memorial Day, today’s post is in honor of Kenneth Roberts and his service to the United States.  During WWI, Roberts served in the Siberian Expeditionary Force in 1918-1919 as Captain in the Intelligence Service. The picture below (obtained from here) is of Roberts’ headstone. Interestingly, though Roberts was a diehard Maine native, he chose not to be buried in his beloved state, but as a soldier in Arlington Cemetery (West, 1962, p. 99).

Kenneth Roberts' Headstone at Arlington Cemetery.

Kenneth Roberts’ Headstone at Arlington Cemetery. Courtesy Ron Williams.

Kenneth Roberts on the Web:

Collectors of Kenneth Roberts’ works will soon have another online book store to peruse for Roberts collectibles. Quaint Book Shop is an online book store that specializes in out-of-print and antiquarian books. According to their “About” page:

Quaint Book Shop is an online shop with a select inventory of used, out-of-print and antiquarian books on a wide range of subjects. Specialties include American national, regional and local history, limited and first edition books of Kenneth Roberts, vintage young adult chapter books and children’s illustrated books, particularly Little Golden Book first editions.

We provide complete descriptions of each book and pictures of many. We do not use stock images; the images are of the actual book. If you have any questions about any book listed, require further information on a book’s state or condition or would like additional photographs, feel free to contact us.

Quaint Book Shop even has a page dedicated to Kenneth Roberts’ works, including his works prior to his historical novels. As of today, there are no books listed for sale. However, it appears that Quaint Book Shop is fairly new (started within the last four years or so it appears), so check in often to see when Roberts’ works are listed.

Another feature this site offers that I find rather helpful is their “For Collectors” page. This page serves as a reference page to other sites that provide such useful information as how to determine the condition of an antique book, how to grade books, book terminology, how to identify first editions, and much more.

Be sure to visit this site for not only future Kenneth Roberts sales, but for other books and helpful collectors information.

Kenneth Roberts in Current News: KHS’ “Sincerely Yours”

For those in and around Kennebunkport, ME, or for those heading up there any time soon, the Kennebunkport Historical Society is displaying a collection of historical letters from Kennebunkport locals and well-knowns, including Kenneth Roberts. Here is the advertisement found in the “Local Arts” section of The Village:

Kennebunkport Historical Society, 125 North St., Kennebunkport. “Sincerely Yours,” a collection of letter spanning Kennebunkport’s history, including those of Booth Tarkington, Kenneth Roberts, U.S. presidents, local families and war letters home. Open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. For more information call, 967-2751.

If you happen to visit this exhibit, let us know what you thought of it (particularly the Roberts letters)!

In the Interwebs: Historical Novel Society

My apologies for the lack of posts lately. I thought I would have all sorts of free time after graduation; however, it seems that work (grading, setting up classes, student counseling, writing projects) fills in any “free time.” I am, though, thinking through what constitutes historical fiction (or the historical novel); I’ve been reading Leon Uris’ Trinity this past week and I tell you, I’ve finally found a historical novel that has lived up to the style of Kenneth Roberts. As such, my brain has been going 90-to-nothing lately about historical fiction in general and how this genre can be (and is, in my opinion), a great vehicle for teaching history (something that Kenneth Roberts believed). I plan on writing a post shortly to this end.

As I’ve been doing some we searches, I came across the website for the Historical Novel Society. This website is a great resource for current and past historical novels, articles and speeches given regarding the nature of historical novels, and much more. I’ve not had a chance to look through the site in fine detail, but what I’ve seen is solid work. A particularly helpful article is adapted from a speech by Sarah Johnson of Eastern Illinois University in 2002 titled Defining the Genre: What are the rules for historical fiction? In short, she discusses the bad rap historical novels receive among the press and the lack of a consensus over a definition of “historical fiction.” Johnson concludes:

You may notice that I haven’t completely answered the question of what makes a novel “historical.” I hope this is something that we as authors and readers can continue to speak about. There may never be an exact definition, but I don’t think it prevents us from appreciating the genre any less. And as for more on the elements of a successful historical novel, I’ll leave it to the author members of this panel to continue this discussion. Thank you.

Certainly I don’t seek to definitively answer the question myself, but I hope in the near future to explore the value of historical fiction as a legitimate means of teaching history. What better way to engage one’s mind in learning than by appealing to one’s senses and emotions through narration as opposed to the dry, stilted text books? More to come…

Question: What Other Authors Are Similar to Kenneth Roberts?

I confess, this post is not an informational post. I do not provide insight into a particular novel, or find some gem on the web of some unknown information on Kenneth Roberts. Rather, this is a question from me to you – fellow fans of Kenneth Roberts.

I am currently looking to find some new authors to read, but…I’m rather picky. I find that Kenneth Roberts’ style is right up my alley and find it difficult to find authors with a similar style.  I also find that my years in school have kept me out of the loop of good fiction.  So, here’s my question – what novels do you suggest I look into that are similar to Kenneth Roberts? (I also fiction with philosophical themes (e.g. Leo Tolstoy)).

So, feel free to leave a comment with some suggestions!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 108 other followers

%d bloggers like this: